Georgetown University students overwhelmingly voted to increase their tuition to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves once owned by the school. The move comes as reparations are increasingly being discussed on the campaign trail for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
The Georgetown University Student Association held the referendum this week, with students supporting the measure by a two-to-one margin. The fee would increase tuition at the nation’s oldest Catholic university by nearly $28 per semester for every student. The money would go into a fund for descendants of the 272 slaves the Jesuits sold in 1838 to keep the deeply indebted university open.
The vote is not binding, however. University leadership will make the final decision on whether to implement a mandatory fee for reparations.
The results of the referendum are as follows: 66.08% for yes (2541 votes), 33.92% for no (1304 votes). This means that the referendum passes.
— GUSA Elections (@GUSAElections) April 12, 2019
“There are many approaches that enable our community to respond to the legacies of slavery,” Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, said in a statement. “This student referendum provides valuable insight into student perspectives and will help guide our continued engagement with students, faculty and staff, members of the Descendant community, and the Society of Jesus.”
Reparations have become a topic of debate in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. At least four White House hopefuls — Obama-era housing secretary Julián Castro, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke — support payments to descendants of slaves. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has ripped into his opponents for not doing enough to make reparations a reality.
Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders disagrees with the idea, however, saying that he would rather focus on the economic inequality that puts African Americans at a disadvantage.